Friday, January 20, 2017

Self-Organizing Teams for the Rest of Us (Another Look)

In Self-Organizing Teams for the Rest of Us, I shared Bertrand Meyer's position on self-organizing teams. Self-organizing teams choose how best to accomplish their work, rather than being directed by others outside the team--highly accomplished self-organizing teams may not require a manager. Self-Organizing teams are self-managed or self-designing [1].

In TSP: Leading a Development Team, Watts S. Humphrey provides a look at self-directed teams.

Is there a difference between self-directed and self-organized teams? If there is, it's that self-directed teams have leaders with a set of responsibilities that are broader than the team's responsibilities.

In Humphrey's view, a leader motivates people to achieve goals and provides an environment where team members focus on results and accomplishments. A manager controls resources to produce results.

Self-directed teams exhibit the following characteristics.
  • A sense of membership and belonging.
  • Commitment to a common team goal.
  • Ownership of the process and the plan.
  • The skill to make a plan and the discipline to follow it.
  • A dedication to excellence.
A leader's focus is to create an environment to support and sustain these characteristics. A leader's responsibility is to motivate, coach and drive team members to perform at the best of their abilities.

The notion of self-directed team is closer to the definition of team that I support in Self-Organizing Teams for the Rest of Us. What's refreshing in Humphrey's description of self-directed teams is that the role of a leader is made explicit.

What Meyer points out is that the rhetoric around self-organizing teams describes what managers shouldn't do. I agree that this is unhelpful for people placed in the position of trying to build an Agile environment.

[1] What are self-organizing teams?

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